What do real estate "marketers" who were in high school or university a just over a decade ago, who became "marketing experts" in real estate and old-school sales guys have in common? The first group, the "marketers", learned their trade in the hottest market ever in the history of real estate. The second group, the sales guys, hasn't had to change a thing for more than a decade, or two (or three or four or even five!). The Internet and information were held close to the vest through the MLS.
Where were today's marketers in the mid-eighties? Many of them were in high school. So - a wise person might ponder - what is their experience in a tough market?
What about the old school sales guys? The last few decades has been - well, the same. In a slow market they looked for leads to be fed to them - watch the classic real estate sales movie "Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross." For the last decade - which has been hotter than hot - every lead was a "Glenn Gary" lead. They didn't even need to pick up a phone. The sales walked right in through the front door. There is more truth to Jack Lemmon's character in that movie today than you can shake a stick at today.
I recently have had the opportunity to watch too many projects and their owners go down, or on the verge of going down with foreclosure and in flames. Some developers who are still hanging on, are under the guise that their "Team" knows how to market.
The reality is that yesterday is gone. Sound's like a Beatles song "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away ..." and the future? Well, it's "here to stay..." Those who survived will evolve. Those who don't? Survival of the fittest, I suppose. I'm wishing the real estate businesspeople the best - all of them. The reality is that a vast majority will struggle until they fail, and a minority will rise to the challenge and really become the definition of marketers and sales people. Here is ol' Valdo Pareto's 80/20% rule come over and over again.
First, this is not about sales people or marketers. It's about the market. his last weekend, I and my marketing Team were working late Friday night and Saturday to meet the deadline. I had tried, personally, numerous times to reach an internal staff member of the client's marketing team on cell, at the office and by SMS text. NO LUCK! Saturday, when people actually are at home, looking for real estate, driving around, where was the marketer? Saturday morning, we called the office - no answer!
This is a tough market. Projects that hire us use our technology or marketing programs, understand that the market has shifted. Buyers don't walk in the door and say, "yes - I'll take that one ..." any longer. The buyers that were "yes" people are gone (they probably are struggling to make their mortgage payment on a property that was too expensive and had a low interest rate). Who is left? Professionals with money, or first time buyers who have a hard time getting a down payment are left.
To reach those buyers, you'll need professional marketers who have sold in good times and in bad; and not just real estate. You need marketers who "get" technology: the social networks, the search engines, the new market spaces out there. Those marketers have a base, and have the know-how and tools that will have hundreds of thousands or millions of transactions and contacts that have been watching for this precise moment in time - the "buyers market." Unlike the days of old, where local newspapers reigned and a sellers market brought in buyers whether or not a dart hit the target, buyers are now savvy, discerning, global prospects.
We recently ran an email campaign using our 1to1Real technology for a developer, only testing to a list of some five hundred contacts (when we have hundreds of thousands of contacts, once perfected, we could go out to with the right offer and message). Professional marketers never go out and burn their lists - they test their messages, get feedback, analytics, sales data, etc. They perfect their messages and then they sell and succeed. They use the feedback they get to understand whether or not they are having a conversation with the market. With the email campaign I mentioned above, our feedback indicated that the market was very much interested in having a conversation with the developer for whom we were blasting. But here is what I've learned about what developers today don't understand. With the information "noise" out in the market, when a market starts a "conversation" with a developer, any conversation is good. It's what Facebook understands, what Google, Wal Mart, Microsoft, Del Web, and successful brands all over the world understand. I've been a marketer across industry segments now for nearly 30 of my 49 years (yikes!). I've made a living driving billions in sales for clients. I've never said "yes" because it was the easy thing to do or to keep an account. Those I have pushed back at, have always made money if they could take what the market had to say. Sometimes its been hard to stand my ground with clients, but it has always worked out in their favor.
In my organization, when we are pushing hard in a tough market to uncover what works to get qualified buyers - we are watching every analytic we can. We can't guarantee sales, but we can guarantee traffic, quality buyers and qualification of that traffic as leads and potential buyers. And we can lower clients' risk of burning marketing money - or sales money for that matter.
The long and short of it is this: Real estate people have been the worst marketers on the planet. It's been a free ride up to now. Real Estate has had such a phenomenal run of luck and an up market for a decade, they have come to expect easy results. Now they have to learn to expect the unexpected.
Contrast that to competitive markets like handbags, retail, cars, entertainment (the best book I've ever read on this is called the Upside by Adrian Slywotzky - also author the Peter Drucker of the 20th Century), and you'll find where analytics are the king to beating the competition. You could also read The Blue Ocean Strategy - another fantastic Harvard Press output on marketing without competing. I've got a laundry list of research, of both success and failure stories from reading, experience and trial and error. I have lectured on this research, and I've put into practice in my own organization. I only say this because, more than anything, I don't want to see another developer burn up more cash unnecessarily - ever.
Today, it takes marketing and sales savvy. The hot market is gone. A sales director asked me the other day how I think it "...has sold thousands of homes ... by throwing stuff at the wall?" To which I responded, "Yes, in a hot market, that's exactly how."
It's just hard work, hard facts and analytics to push for sales that will work. No more "glossy" print pages that don't track and no more extravagant marketing spends anywhere else, either, for that matter. It's time for Real Estate people to get Real, and to abandon their old days of myth and misunderstanding.